Sword of Shibito Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Release Date: Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hideyuki Kikuchi and Missile Kakurai
Translated by:Akiku Yabuki
Adapted by:

What They Say
The Saezuki Clan binds a living soul into the cold flesh of a sewn-together corpse. He is Shibito, an undead samurai and the next ruler of Japan! Can the Saezuki Clan control their mindless killer, or will Shibito turn against his masters?

The Review
The cover illustration is the same as the original Japanese release and features the long-haired Shibito holding a sword in his mouth. The logo is simply the title in large text along the bottom of the cover. The artwork from the front wraps around to the back cover which contains the volume summary. The volume contains both volume and chapter headers, and there are a couple extras pages at the end of the volume. One is a two panel joke from the artist, “How to Make Shibito” and the other is a definition of a couple terms. I did notice a couple of ink blotches on the pages, although they were pretty small.

The character artwork is a horrible mess. A lot of the designs are out of proportion and have elongated appendages or hands that change sizes between panels. Every character in the book looks like they are emaciated. There’s also a lot of white space and the backgrounds and action scenes just seem like rough sketches. This is a shame since the cover and chapter headers feature a lot of great looking artwork. While I think the art might be going for a raw angle to fit the horror theme, it really just looks like sketch work that needs to be finished.

The SFX are translated and subtitled. The subtitled text is usually about the same size as the original text and attempts to copy the same font style. The subtitles were placed in a way that didn’t evade too much of the art and were done nicely.

The translation seems pretty clean. I was able to follow the dialogue with ease and noticed no major grammar or spelling errors of any kind.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Shibito is horror/samurai period story written by Hideyuki Kikuchi, who is the creator of many horror manga and also the Vampire Hunter D novels. The beginning part of the story follows a threesome of travelers through the Adachi fields, which have many eerie legends about them. One of these legends is about a clan who lost all their power and fled to these fields to build a mansion and continue hiding there. While walking through the fields, they are forewarned by a machinist, or doll maker, that they should turn back. Of course, they don’t and soon they are attacked by a mysterious, ghostly woman with a long-handled sword. Only the pharmacist, Kinzou, is left alive and he must now carry the dead body of one of his fellow travelers and follow the ghostly woman into a mansion that appears out of nowhere. I thought this first part offered a decent horror story, but it soon just went way downhill from there.

Inside this phantom mansion, an old man is attempting to bring back his son, and heir to the family clan, from the dead so that he can rule all of Japan. They use the body and head from the two travelers to sew together a new body in attempt to put the old man’s son’s konpaku (soul) into this new body. The experiment works and many sword battles begin. Shibito is brought back to life and now Kinzou must teach Shibito about this new world, all under the supervision of a talking raven. Only when Shibito comes back to life, his soul and body aren’t completely together yet, so Shibito goes on a killing spree and ends up killing his father. There goes the plans for ruling Japan.

The story is completely nonsensical. I caught myself rolling my eyes over and over during this whole Frankenstein scene. I have even read the story a couple times and I just find it a mess. After Shibito comes back to life, the mansion collapses and Kinzou is transported to some village where now we watch a sort of drama about the relationship between villagers and samurai. At the end of this drama, Shibito shows up out of nowwhere and just starts slicing everyone up. I’m speechless.

While the first chapter or two offered a unique horror story, it completely just leaped into incomprehensible and laughable storylines about a secret family wanting to take back Japan by bringing their dead son back to life. I kept trying to figure out if I was missing some sort of cultural context, but I realized that this is just bad story writing. The awkward artwork also makes the story even more unlikable, as the action scenes and characters are plain ugly. If you are a fan of Kikuchi’s other works, you might find something enjoyable here with the horror aspect and strange characters like the puppet master. Otherwise, I would just find something else to pick up.

Mania Grade: D+
Art Rating: D
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: CPM Press
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 203
ISBN: 158664977-9
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left